Tag Archives: Bautista

The Sensational Six

Brett Lawrie capped off an epic, rollercoaster game on Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers with a ninth inning walk-off home run. The Sensational Six loved it.
John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

LIVINGSTONE: They heckled the drunk frat boys in our section. They gambled on who would get the first hit. They mused about whether or not the bunt Colby Rasmus laid down was a call from the dugout or his own decision.

They are the Sensational Six.

Sitting in two groups of three, one row in front of the other, the six elderly women – and if I’m guessing all in their early sixties – make it out to a dozen games a year as a group. During the early innings of Tuesday’s game  against the Texas Rangers – somewhere in the inning when pitcher Drew Hutchison gave up five runs, I noticed the woman sitting in front of me keeping an official score sheet, marking down every hit, out, walk, run and strikeout. The fact she was keeping the card made me smile. It’s always nice to see people coming out to enjoy the game rather than drink beer and take their shirts off in the seventh inning during the stretch (more on that later).

When Kelly Johnson hit the three-run shot in the bottom of three, followed by a towering shot from a struggling Jose Bautista, I noticed another sheet two rows down with the other trio of women, who I later found out are all from the area and have been coming to games since the early days of professional baseball in Toronto. The sheet, with The Sensational Six neatly scrawled along the top of the page – had a series of columns with players names penciled in for first hit of the game, first homerun, first double, etc. The sensational six was betting on game stats to make it a game within a game. The betting wasn’t for money, but for large gummies they had in a container with them. Sure, minor in nature, but the fact it brought a feeling of competitiveness and excitement to their experience – one of what is about a dozen a year.

While the game was surely one of the most exciting of the season – Lawrie’s laser beam walk-off in the bottom of nine was incredible to watch – it was watching these women analyze the game, talk about the sloppy play of Yunel Escobar as of late, Kelly Johnson’s love-hate relationship at the plate and in the field – at times – and the inability of the Jays bullpen to close out games (blown save number 56 last night). They truly loved the game and were there to take in the beauty of the sport.

Oh, the frat party. Speckled in the crowd – I swear we somehow got every drunk 19-year-old in the stadium in our section – groups of guys, and one lone idiot with his embarrassed girlfriend, were loud, obnoxious and obscene. It takes a lot to offend me, but these guys and the language used toward the Rangers players could have easily spoiled the night. I understand people come to the games to have fun, drink beers, experience the game the way they want to, but sometimes it goes too far.

Last night reminded me of opening night and the debauchery that went on, especially when a group of five guys sitting three rows in front of us to the right took off their shirts and began waving them like towels. I could smell them from my seat, no joke. It wasn’t pleasant. When the game was getting on into the ninth, one of the ladies started telling a couple extremely loud fans to shut up. I admired the women for their love of the game. Young and old alike, the game makes us all feel like a kid in the school yard, playing for the World Series championship. They wanted to enjoy the game and not put up with the sauced fans. Fair enough.

When Francisco Cordero blew the game with two outs in the ninth by giving up three straight singles to centerfield, I asked the women who bet on the Jays blowing the save opportunity. One of the sensational six chimed in and said, ‘hell we all would’ve picked it’. When Lind hit into a double play with none out early in the game, a sense of frustration bellowed from the women, one yelling ‘why didn’t you bunt? You can’t hit the ball!’ She wasn’t saying anything we already didn’t know, but it sure made me laugh.

So, Brett Lawrie. Kid has energy. You could sense it all over the stadium after he made the last out in the ninth to take it to the bottom, you could feel it. He wanted to end the game. And he did it in the classic, soon-to-be legendary Brett Lawrie way. When the ball hit the top of the outfield wall to end the game, the ladies were jumping for joy. It was like the World Series trophy was coming back to Canada for the first time in two decades. While the drunken buffoons jumped for joy – more likely because they were hammered – the ladies reveled in an exciting, likely to be one of the best games of the young Jays season.

I hope I’m lucky enough to have the sensational six sitting in front of me at a future game. Maybe I’ll get in on the betting with them. I do love gummies.

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Can Ben Affleck predict the World Series?

Ben Affleck + movie release dates + Red Sox = A World Series title.

Who knew rock bottom would look this way.

I didn’t think David Ortiz wouldn’t be among the AL batting leaders at rock bottom.

I wouldn’t have imagined a pitching staff with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz would be part of rock bottom.

As for the bullpen, that’s what a rock bottom pen looks like.

Bobby Valentine as the manager of a team hitting rock bottom? That seems to be more and more likely each time he talks or has Ortiz and Kelly Shoppach try and steal bases.

Despite the doom and gloom of the early 2012 Red Sox season, there is a slight sliver of hope.

I present the ‘Ben Affleck movie release date theory (BAMRDT).

When Affleck has a movie scheduled for release in Oct., rest assured the Red Sox are going to the World Series.

Surviving Christmas – Starring Ben Affleck. Release date Oct. 22, 2004.

Gone Baby Gone – Directed by Ben Affleck. Release date Oct. 10, 2007.

I will admit Gone Baby Gone is a far superior movie to Surviving Christmas and gets points for double Affleck action as Ben’s brother Casey stars in the film. However, quality of films has no bearing on the BAMRDT.

As you may have noticed, in one film Ben is an actor and the other a director. A singular focus in each.

This brings me to 2012 and…..

Argo – Starring and Directed by Ben Affleck. Tentative release date Oct. 12, 2012.

This fits the BAMRDT criteria, but that release date is not set in stone. Warner Bros. could wreak havoc on the theory, but for now everything seems to be in place. Here’s what imdb.com says about the plot: “As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.”

I have no idea if that sounds good or not, but the BAMRDT does not require the movie be good, just released in October. However, with this year off to such a poor start surely not even the BAMRDT could possibly save it. This may very well prove to be true, but Affleck sensed this and thus ratcheted things up on his end. He’s an actor/director in Argo – a double focus. Ben knew the lack of off-season signings and hiring of Valentine would require some extra magic on his part to reverse the trend and selflessly decided to pull double duty.

If this theory pans out, I’m nominating Affleck for all-time president of Red Sox Nation.  If the BAMRDT doesn’t pan out, I know what movie I’ll be going to see rather than watching the World Series in October.

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A power bat? Where? I’m guessin’ left…

Subs outfielder Alfonso Soriano would be a good power bat addition to the Jays roster - however, the salary he is owed could be an issue.

STRADER: Does anybody get the feeling the Blue Jays aren’t happy with either left fielder?

I am.

One, because AA doesn’t make anything public, and his desire for an impact bat just became public. Two, because it’s not JP Arencibia that’s going to lose his job, I don’t care how many people want to focus on the low batting average.

How would the Baltimore Orioles feel if they’d given up on Matt Wieters?

Pretty dumb, I would imagine.

There’s way more to being a catcher than hitting and I don’t think the organization is as frustrated with Arencibia as some of the fans are.

(That damn debut is going to haunt this kid until he hits….)

No, there is a position on the field that doesn’t seem to be filled by that reliable, crushing, middle of the order bat, just yet.

So, with Anthopolous reportedly telling MLB network radio’s Jim Bowden that a middle of the order bat is his true desire, to “wear down” other teams, it appears that a trial run with a kid for a couple seasons is not what Anthopolous wants. And look around the diamond.

Do you move Rasmus? Nope. He’s looking confident and skilled again, and there’s a speedster in the wings.

Is it Escobar? Nope. Once again, not the power development that has been hyped, but there’s talent waiting on the depth chart there too in a young Cuban who’s looking all world.

No, left field, which I believe in two to three years will be occupied by Jake Marisnick could use a dominant, power-hitting, veteran.

So for fun, ‘cause speculation with the Blue Jays brass is always wrong, let’s take a look at Major League outfields and see if we can find a power-hitting veteran, that would come cheap, is on a team that wants to move him, and also a squad looking to add to their young talent.

Melky….I don’t know….Delmon….would Detroit trade anything right now?….Logan Morrison….is he proven enough?….Brennan Boesch…certainly a lot of talk about his ceiling….Jason Bay…I could only dream he becomes reliable again and lands in Canada….

Nope, I think I found the perfect hole filler. His team will absorb a lot of his contract. He would hit the snot out of the ball in Rogers Centre. And in a couple years, he would happily be replaced by a young outfielder, because he’s in his mid-30s.

Yep, I never thought I would say it, but I want to see Alfonso Soriano in a Blue Jay uniform.

Because of his critics, price tag, and lack of a market, I believe he would only require a couple mid-level prospects to get him.

His OPS is always above .700, this guy can simply hit the ball.

And without having to be the go-to guy in a lineup, he would be an unreal complement bat.

As I’ve said before, I’m patient. I’d rather see Travis Snider for a full season, leave him alone, let him play.

But if we’re going to see 24 and 25 year olds platooned with Rajai, replaced for defensive reasons, not playing against left-handed pitchers, then bring the vet, and wait for Marisnick and Gose.

Maybe Thames and a mid-level pitching prospect would get us Soriano?

And how wicked would he look sandwiched in there with Edwin, Brett, Adam and that dude in right field?

I’m thinking pretty good.

Of course, it looks like my Jenkins prediction was a little out of left field too….

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Timelessness and Jamie Moyer

Creeping closer to seniors discounts at local restaurants, Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to win a game in the bigs, a 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres. Cheers Jamie!

LIVINGSTONE: I’m beginning to look into my future a little bit more these days, especially when it comes to baseball. It coincides with life, maturity, professional desires, life, family, etc. It’s normal, I suppose, so it’s carried over into the ‘what-ifs’ of my sports passions. Will Ben Roethlisberger make it to another Super Bowl? Will The Flyers win a Stanley Cup in the next five years? Will the Leafs ever win one in my lifetime (or my hypothetical child…and their kids.)?

The question that popped into my head last night came on the heals of a new baseball record, now enshrined in the Hall of Fame: Will Jamie Moyer ever retire?

Moyer, at the young age of forty-nine, became the oldest pitcher in history to win a baseball game. Pitching now for the Colorado Rockies, after pitching for almost every team in baseball (that’s not true, but it seems like it, he’s only pitched for eight) he kept the San Diego Padres’ hitters at bay with his lightning-fast 79 mph fastball and his nasty cutter. The Rockies won 5-3.

Moyer, 49 years, 150 days old to be exact, takes the record held by Jack Quinn of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who was 49 years, 70 days old when he set the record.

Wait, the Brooklyn Dodgers? Yep, the record was set on Sept. 13, 1932 when a bottle of Coke was five cents and the Second World War was yet to happen.

It’s an incredible feat. To be able to pitch for 25 years, for eight clubs, play with Ryne Sandberg, Ken Griffey Jr., and Carlos Gonzalez (in three different decades mind you) amass 268 wins and over 2,400 Ks – it’s unreal. Moyer is the third oldest pitcher ever to play in a regular season game (behind Quinn and Satchel Paige who was, get this, 59(!!) when he played in 1965) and is tied for sixth on the oldest player, pitcher or position, to play (he’s tied with the likes of Julio Franco (2007) and Hughie Jennings (1918), among others).

It speaks a lot to not only the longevity of his ability to play – but to the fact he has been able to continue pitching, after 25 years and more than 4,000 innings, without his body, or love for the game, saying that’s enough.

Sure, he gets a paycheck, and a pretty decent one in the grand scheme of life, but at this point in his career, he just seems to want to keep playing the game he loves so dearly.

It’s beautiful.

 

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Dyin’ to see what Eric Thames can do – so let him do it.

Name: Eric Thames. Team: Toronto Blue Jays. Position: Starting(?) LF.

Strader: You know what the great thing is about Alex Anthopolous?

He sticks to his plan.

Did he dump a ton of money into Fielder or Pujols’ driveway?

Nope.

Did he go after CJ, ‘cause hey, he was the best of what was available?

Nope.

He’s patient. He’s calculated. He’s determined.

He’s deliberate.

I don’t get to know s—! And man, as a fan that can be really frustrating. But when Escobar for Gonzalez comes out of the blue, it can be really exciting.  So I deal.

I wanted Prince Fielder. I don’t care about the talk of albatross contracts in this town. I don’t care that Vernon Wells was overpaid. When his free agency was an issue, did I want him in Yankee pinstripes? Nope. Did I care what Rogers had to pay to keep him? Definitely not. Just keep him.

He regressed, he didn’t maintain his allstar status and that got frustrating, so Vernon had to go. Anthopolous has maintained he wants a superstar at every position, and I’m fully supportive of that. I get upset at players being vilified for performance, that I’m outspoken about. But I will cut a guy who’s not good enough, for the one who is. It’s all about winning.

And the guy who makes the show isn’t gonna hurt. He’s gonna be fine.

If they go bankrupt ala Warren Sapp, that’s their own problem.

So, I find myself really frustrated at watching Eric Thames.

Why? Because I’m patient. I don’t expect the Jays to contend this year. I’m happy to watch young players struggle, work, and hopefully grow.

So why does it seem that the organization already has their mind made up about Eric Thames?

Can he hit a lefty in the bottom of the seventh with two out and the Jays down by two?

I don’t know. ‘Cause he’ll get that shot once every two months.

Can he provide capable enough defence in the late evenings to be a consistent every day player?

I don’t know. ‘Cause the guy in left has Davis on his back.

If we’re building for the future, and we’re growing a superstar at every position, then I don’t want a guy out there, who at 24, is already being platooned, defensively replaced, pinch run for in every big situation…

That isn’t an everyday superstar. And if that determination is made, why am I not watching Travis Snider?

Dan Johnson’s name will live forever in Tampa Bay. You know why? Because he came through in a big moment. Johnson won’t ever be thought of as a superstar, but if you want to know if a guy is a superstar, doesn’t he have to be given the opportunity to show it?

There is the argument that Thames is being showcased, because trade value will grow more for a guy playing in the show, then a kid in the minors, no matter the numbers, but then what are the other GM’s watching?

Well, good fundamentals, but his team already believes he can’t play defence or hit lefties…so what are the Jays going to get for that???

I agree with the plan. And I will wait.

But I want to grow and nurture young players into everyday beasts, so that we can contend in the east.

Five tools is five tools. If you’ve already decided that a guy is three tools, then move on to the next tool. Play him in the big situations, and let’s see what this kid can do. Ok?

Or just dump the money. Albatross is a nice buzz word to criticize a GM, but if you’re sticking to your plan, and your team is winning, no fan is going to care how much money Rogers is spending.

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A look at the first week of baseball: Infante, D’backs and Ozzie Castro, er, Guillen

Miami Marlins second baseman Omar Infante is off to a good start - his manager, however, is struggling to remove his foot from his mouth.

LIVINGSTONE: It’s a week into the season for the boys of summer. It’s nice to get back into the routine of checking daily baseball stats, deciding the ole fantasy line-up for the day and catching whatever games I can on the tube – especially the late games. It’s my first full summer in Toronto and in addition to all things baseball from my years past, I now get to engage with the Fan590, the great crew of baseball nuts and the spot-on and absolutely moronic baseball fanatics – aka Jays fans – out there.

The anxiety and curiosity that comes with the start of the season is always at it’s worst. Everything is so up in the air. How will so-and-so perform? What pitchers are going to throw gems? Who is going to surprise and rip it up the first week and are they legit? Who is going to tank? When do we worry they may not get out of the funk?

And so on and so on.

So, in honour of the first week of the season, the biggest surprises and whatnots of the week.

1. The first-series sweeps of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

For the first time since 1966 (correct me if I’m wrong people) the two powerhouses of the last 20 years in the American League lost their opening series’ in not-so-classy fashion. Four blown saves (Boston had three, including two in one game; Rivera, surprisingly, blew a ninth inning lead to the Tampa Bay Rays). I know it’s early, but it’s surprising. Since then the Yanks have managed some wins against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, while the Sox lost two of three to the Blue Jays and sit at 1-4. No blown saves though, so that’s a positive.

That said – Boston has a nine-game homestand starting Friday. Rays (four), Rangers (two), Yankees (three). If they can’t pull it together at home against these three equals/better thans, it’s going to be a long, long season for Sox Nation.

2. Omar Infante

It’s early, but he’s tied for the league lead in dingers. I know, it’s only three, but still, it’s shocking. The guy hit seven total last season in 640 plate appearances (his 162-game average is nine). In seven seasons (2005-2011) Infante hit 35 home runs in about 2,000 at-bats (note: he hit 16 in 2004 for the Tigers). It’s very likely he won’t hit more than his 2004 total this year, his tenth, but the hot start has to be exciting for the Marlins, who rely on him to get on base and provide quality defense at second.

3. Ozzie Guillen

I’m not going to get into his love for Fidel Castro too much, nor the five-game suspension that followed – but holy lord. In the span of a week he told reporters he gets drunk at the hotel after every game and passes out, followed by bro-love for the longest standing dictator in the world in Castro. Well done Ozzie. Thing is, it’s not surprising – he has no filter.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

This team is potent. They’re deep on the bench and can field a solid one-thru-eight, loaded with solid hitters who can do damage if given the opportunity. Pitching? Yep, they have it. The addition of Trevor Cahill to the duo of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. The comeback against the Giants Saturday shows they can scrape back. Down six runs early, they chipped away and stole the win 7-6 from their division rivals – and biggest opponent for the division title.

5. Minnesota Twins

Six runs in four games – three of those games against the Baltimore Orioles. Enough said.

6. The week of blown saves

Sweet mercy, I don’t know what to think of all the blown saves, walk-off/extra inning wins in the first week. There were enough that it’s cause conversation among the three of us here at Out of Write Field. The AL East is particularly disturbing: Rivera (1), Jays Sergio Santos (2), Red Sox Aceves and Melancon (3) have had it rough in the first week. Watch for Matthew Strader’s piece on the closer issues going on across the majors – blown saves, injuries and everything going wrong in the ninth. As I write this Jonathan Broxton, Royals closer-of-the-day, just blew what feels like the 30th save opportunity in the first week of the season (I think it’s actually 17 at this point of the day with Broxton – but still…17!!? late addition note: Make it 18. Joe Nathan blew the game for the Rangers last night in the ninth to the Seattle Mariners)

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Jays need to attack starters early and often, Santos will come around

Jays closer Sergio Santos got roughed up again last night, blowing the lead and taking the loss in a 4-2 comeback by the Sox. His command was off and two passed balls cost the Jays. But fret not - it's the fourth game of the season and Santos will find his swagger.

LIVINGSTONE: It wasn’t the prettiest of endings for the Jays last night against the Sox, falling 4-2 to the divisional rivals – but not all is lost like some of the people in attendance last night might seem to think so (Many weren’t necessarily ‘fans’ but people just there because it was opening night and the 500 level is a glorified frat house).

Already people are ripping on closer Sergio Santos for blowing two saves in the first four games of the season. Maybe he didn’t get enough work during the spring – he only threw about five innings or so all spring – and in comparison to the rest of the bullpen staff, many who tossed ten or more innings (Villenueva, Perez, Cordero, Frasor and Oliver all threw ten or more). It’s no excuse for giving up the lead, but Santos, pitching for the first time in the Skydome in front of an energized crowd, it couldn’t been too much for him. Let’s keep in mind the kid was drafted as a shortstop and only converted to the closer position about three years ago. He’s young and still trying to get comfortable in the role. He’s going to be the closer for the Jays and it’s going to take a lot for manager John Farrell and management to remove him from there. He’s in for the long-term, there is no doubt. There needs to be some patience.

Keep in mind: it was the fourth game of the year. Fans jeered and boo’ed Santos off the field after Farrell pulled him with two outs in the ninth. It was shocking, to be honest. I chalk it up to being a sold-out crowd of beer-chugging non-fans (half the row behind us in the 500-level where my season tickets are were passed out by the 7th), but hey, even they have expectations and that includes a pitcher not blowing the lead.

Things will get better for Santos and the two blown saves will be a thing of the past when he is closing out games later in the season.

However, it could be difficult for him to do that if hitters don’t start attacking starting pitchers through the first round of the order. It’s been the theme through the first four games – let the first pitch go, maybe even the second. I can’t think of one hitter outside of Colby Rasmus who hasn’t let the first pitch go in the majority of their at-bats. Brett Lawrie, Edwin Encarnacion and even Jose Bautista are settling into pitchers counts early in their at-bats and end up having to fight to stay alive at the plate. Lawrie has done it for more than 50 per cent of his at-bats.

The potent offense that we saw during the spring and last season exists, but if the team wants to capitalize on it, they have to stop letting starters get their confidence levels in the clouds. Sox starter Felix Doubront should’ve been an easy target for the Jays to open up the floodgates and mash the ball around. But they didn’t. They sat back on a lot of first pitch strikes – even second pitch strikes – and ended up having to settle on breaking balls and junk pitches to try and put the ball in play.I said to my wife during Colby Rasmus’ third at-bat of the game and said ‘I bet you ten bucks he swings at the first pitch’. He’s the only guy who has been doing it more than the rest of the team. While it hasn’t turned into a lot of hits – outside of a 1-for-15 series against the Indians and his crowd-pleasing triple last night – he’s attacking the ball.

Santos shouldn’t have been in such a tight game last night. The Jays had an opportunity to hit Doubront – who was pitching in his fourth-ever game as a starter – and they didn’t take that chance. If the run support is there, Santos won’t be in those tight games against such a potent, dangerous line-up like the Sox. And outside of Santos and the bats, the bullpen has been lights out sand the defense was incredibly solid last night. Rasmus and Lind made two great defensive stops to save runs. If they hadn’t, the game might never have gotten to Santos’ hands because they would’ve been down going into the ninth.

That all said, I can tell you I’m excited to get back to the stadium tonight. It’s been a twenty-year dream of mine to be a Jays season ticket holder and to attend opening night. It was exactly what I expected and more.

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Weekend notes: Collmenter’s delivery and Johnson’s plate discipline

Diamondbacks' pitcher Josh Collmenter delivery is odd in comparison to the rest of the league - it certainly got one Write Fielders' attention.

LIVINGSTONE: After watching the Jays drop the series finale of the opening weekend series to the Cleveland Indians 4-3, The San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks game came on and after watching Josh Collmenter throw his first inning, I had to sit down and write about him.

In the many years I’ve watched baseball, there are a number of unorthodox pitchers that come to mind – Hideo Nomo with his near corkscrew pitch delivery, Giants Tim Lincecum with his rocket launchpad approach, Brad Ziegler and Peter Moylan’s submarine-style delivery, the list could go on.

But looking back over the years, I can’t think of anyone with a delivery like Collmenter. While his delivery isn’t as, well, below the belt as the submarine, it is less than normal. When he throws a pitch – either the fastball or change-up, both pitches he relies on heavily – his arm looks like that of a cricket bowler (ie: the guy who launches the cricket ball), a near-mechanical looking delivery. Coming out of his wind-up, his arm doesn’t sit outside his shoulder, but seemingly right in line with it. The over-the-top delivery is uncommon in baseball and certainly can be deceptive to hitters.

There is a certain amount of expectation surrounding Collmenter. Since his days pitching for the Homer High School Trojans, where The Homer, Michigan native put up eye-opening numbers. Collmenter won 18 games in the 2004 season, the third highest total in state history. He recorded a state-record 13 shutouts that season while striking out 223 batters and notching a 0.13 ERA. Collmenter finished his High School career with 49 wins, 23 shutouts, 546 strikeouts and a 0.99 ERA, all of which rank in the top six in state history.

His minor league stats weren’t nearly as lights out – he went 45-27 between 2007 and 2010 with one Trilple-A appearance in 2011 before being called up to the Diamondbacks – but they were enough to get him a spot in the starting rotation where he went 10-10 last season, striking out 100 in 154-plus innings, helping the D’Backs win the National League West division.

He’s a fun kid to watch pitch and with some work on refining his curveball into a quality breaking pitch to compliment his fastball, change-up and cutter, Collmenter will be a top-three starter during his career.

That all said, I want to fast-forward back to the Jays opening series, briefly, to spare our readers the saturation of Jays talk.

Despite being three games into the season, Jays second baseman – and number two hitter – Kelly Johnson is showing some incredible plate discipline. While he’s 5-for-14 with a home run, he’s got four walks, most of them long plate appearances, drawing it out to eight or nine pitch at-bats before taking his base. The biggest one was in the ninth today against the Indians, taking a walk on a 12 (I think) pitch at-bat with two out to load the bases for Jose Bautista. While Bautista flied out (to the moon) to end the game, it wasn’t a total loss.

Hitting in front of one of the most dangerous bats in the game requires you to get on base as much as possible. If the opening series is any indication (Johnson’s OBP is over .500) Bautista is going to have ample opportunity to put runs on the board – or get walked (he’s got four walks in three games), paving the way for Lind, Encarnacion and Lawrie to empty the bases.

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From the desk of a Sox fan: Blue Jays opening series

Jays rookie phenom third baseman Brett Lawrie is looking good in the eyes of a Red Sox fan. The best thing for the Jays this week? The Winless Red Sox coming to town for the opening series at the Skydome.

With the first weekend in the books, I’m of two minds on the Jays opening weekend.

So in interest of being fair to both sides of my thoughts, I will present the positive and negative sides of the Jays first three games.

RECORD

Positive: The Jays won two of three against the Cleveland Indians and had a chance to sweep the road series, but came up a run short. Anytime you win a road series, you’ve got to be happy.

Negative: While the Jays did win a pair, they could have just as easily lost all three games. Two extra inning games on the road can go either way.

PITCHING

Positive: Even without a good start from ace Ricky Romero, the Jays won two of three and the bullpen, a weakness last year, did a nice job holding off the Indians bats in the extra inning contests. Brandon Morrow looked good in his first outing, a good sign for all Jays fans.

Negative: Romero didn’t pitch well, Joel Carreno didn’t look good in his start and Sergio Santos blew a save in his first opportunity. The Jays starters were heavily out pitched by the Indian starters.

HITTING

Positive: What more can you say, these guys are never out of a ball game and proved it with late inning and extra inning heroics. Brett Lawrie looks like he’s going to pick up where he left off last season and Jose Bautista has bashed his first homerun. Kelly Johnson had some nice at bats in the series and J.P. Arencibia was the hero in Game 1 with a three-run blast. The Jays took advantage of the Indians bullpen and were one-hit away from possibly sweeping the Indians.

Negative: The trio of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe dominated the Jays in the series. The trio threw 26 innings, allowed eight hits and three earned runs while striking out 14. That’s a 1.04 ERA for Cleveland starting pitchers. A team with a better bullpen could have made the Jays 0-3. Arencibia had an important hit, but the guy has to get more than one in a series to be an everyday starting catcher.

Colby Rasmus needs to be better at the plate. Unlike my colleague Strader, I don’t believe good defence from Rasmus is enough. He has to hit like an everyday centerfielder, but it’s early and I still believe that he can be a good offensive player.

OVERALL

You have to like the Jays opening weekend. The team played with a swagger and never gave up on any play. Outside of Morrow, the starting pitching wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible – basically it was average.

Lawrie is a lot of fun to watch, he gives maximum effort on every play and, as I said earlier, the bullpen looks much improved and Santos should be fine.

My verdict is while there are more positives than negatives, the Jays need to be able to hit starting pitching and not depend on late inning comeback every time, although it is exciting.

The pitching was average and still the team won two games, but now we’re into the part of the staff that is a real unknown.

The good news is the reeling Boston Red Sox are in town. This team is finding a way to lose in spectacular fashion

While Sunday’s offensive explosion was nice to see, Boston has struggled on the mound. Besides Lester’s performance on opening day, the Sox have not had good pitching and the bullpen is a huge weakness as Aceves has blown two saves.

Honestly, it will be a long year in Beantown if Bobby Valentine can’t right the ship.

I expect a high scoring game between the two as the biggest question marks for both are the back end of the rotation.

It should be a great night at Skydome (I’m following fellow Write Fielder Livingstone’s lead in refusing to call it Rogers Centre). Livingston and Strader will be blogging from the stands, so check the site for some instant insight and photos from the home opener.

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The Write Fielders unscientific guide to the 2012 MLB season

Matt Kemp for MVP? It's possible, and likely, says Write Fielder Andrew McGilligan.

McGILLIGAN: With the season about to start, what follows are my predictions for the 2012 MLB 2012.

I will either be proven a genius (the most unlikely of scenarios) or, like 99 per cent of others making predictions, just plain wrong.

So with that bit of inspirational writing here are my picks:

American League Division and Wild Card Winners

AL East – New York Yankees

Al Central – Detroit Tigers

Al West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AL Wildcard – Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox

RATIONALE: The Yankees always find a way to win and I have a hard time thinking this year will be different, however, I think it will be extremely tight in the East. I think all the moves made by the Angels might take a few games to come together, but when they do, its going to be fun to watch. There’s no team in the central that should be close to Detroit. The Rangers should get one wildcard spot, as for the other, it’s a tossup between the Sox and Rays, but I give it to the Sox because, well, I like the Sox (no one said this was going to be scientific).

National League Division and Wild Card Winners

NL East – Philadelphia Phillies

NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers

NL West – San Francisco Giants

NL Wildcards – Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins

RATIONALE: I think the Phillies know the clock is ticking and will be fighting tooth and nail with the Marlins for the East, but pitching gives the Phils the division. So many people like the Reds and Cardinals in the central, but even without Fielder I think the pitching and decent but weaker Brewers lineup can still get it done. In the West, its pitching once again for me as the Giants staff will be too good to have the Diamondbacks wrestle the crown away for a second year.

World Series

Detroit over San Francisco in six games

RATIONALE: I’m big on Detroit this year. A solid lineup with two of the most intimidating hitters around combined with a pitching staff led by Verlander should be enough for World Series crown in Motor City.

And the trophy goes to…

AL MVPMiguel Cabrera – With Fielder doing the job of Victor Martinez providing protection for arguably the best hitter in the game, I see another outstanding year on the horizon.

AL Cy YoungDavid Price – He’s developed other pitches to go with his great fastball and I think this is the year he puts it all together.

AL Rookie of the YearMatt Moore – I was tempted to go with Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes (honestly either one could have been my pick), but I’m going with the Rays rookie hurler Matt Moore to take the honour.

NL MVPMatt Kemp – Can’t see why he wouldn’t be just as great this year as last. New ownership makes it a more stable place to play, which can’t hurt.

NL Cy YoungRoy Halladay – I don’t ever like to bet against Roy Halladay, so I won’t. Chalk up another trophy for Doc.

NL Rookie of the YearYonder Alonso – I wanted to slot in Bryce Harper, but I decided to go out to the left coast and predict Padres rookie Yonder Alonso comes home with the award.

I also have some random predictions I hope come true this year:

– Ozzie Guillen conducts an entire press conference using nothing but Spanish curse words

– KFC tries all season to make Jon Lester and Josh Beckett their news spokesmen to no avail…..John Lackey offers to do it for bucket of chicken and is turned down

– After being thrown out of a game, Bobby Valentine dresses up as Matt Damon, sits next to Ben Affleck near Red Sox dugout and tries to coach using various hand signals being relayed to David Ortiz.

LIVINGSTONE: Predicting anything sports related is either going to make you look like a genius, a bandwagon jumper or a complete moron who was way off the mark.

I’d like to think I can be the genius, but it’s all a guessing game – so I’ll go with being the moron over the bandwagon jumper out of pure respect of taking a gamble rather than the safe bet.

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista propels the Jays into the post-season for the first time in nearly two decades - and finally, his well-deserved MVP.

With out further adieu:

American League Division and Wild Card Winners

AL East – Yankees

Al Central – Detroit Tigers

Al West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AL Wildcard – Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays

RATIONALE: The Yankees, while pitching may be a bit of a question mark, have a potent line-up that will likely win 97 games, despite an average rotation with one superstar (CC). Detroit is the sexy pick in the Central, and with good reason. Who else is going to compete with that monster? The West is going to be a shootout this year. I like Anaheim purely for the stronger pitching staff, considering CJ is going to be third or fourth in the rotation after being at the top in Texas. Sox and Jays – I’m calling it. Tampa is going to be in the mix, but the lackluster offense is going to be troublesome down the road. If the Jays can get their rotation woes straightened out, they’ll be strong contenders come September.

National League Division and Wild Card Winners

NL East – Washington Nationals

NL Central – Cincinnati Reds

NL West – San Francisco Giants

NL Wildcards – Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies (odd team out: D’Backs, Dodgers, Braves – all nipping at the heels)

OVER-RATED: MIAMI MARLINS (new stadium, new unis, new players – same whiny Hanley Ramirez. Expect him to bring down the team.)

RATIONALE: My ‘are you f’in’ crazy’ pick. Washington has a strong rotation, a quality bullpen and a strong line-up with young talent ready to breakout (Michael Morse, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and eventually, Bryce Harper). I like Philly, too, but age, injuries and what I predict to be a loss of one of the big arms in the rotation will make them fall short of the division title. Loving the Reds this year. Young, strong pitching, with a solid line-up and an MVP candidate.  San Fran – fixed the top of the order with Pagan and Cabrera and have by FAR the best rotation in the game. Expect a breakout year from Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey to be in fine form after missing last season. Milwaukee – hell, it could be St. Louis again, who knows. Brew Crew have a good rotation (Greinke, Marcum and Gallardo), closer (Axford) and a good line-up, despite losing Prince to the Tigers. Arizona will come up short when the duo of Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy come back to earth.

World Series

Angels over Giants in six games

RATIONALE: The Angels are the real deal. Incredible pitching staff, out of this world line-up. It’ll be a pitching showcase in this Fall Classic, sure to be an interesting one.

And the trophy goes to…

AL MVPJose Bautista – Jays make the playoffs for the first time in 19 years on another massive year from Joey Bats. Don’t count out King Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder or Robinson Cano, though.

AL Cy YoungCC Sabathia – Guy just dominates year in and year out. Expect it to be a tight race with the likes of Verlander, Price and Angels’ Jared Weaver.

AL Rookie of the YearYoenis Cespedes – His team won’t make the playoffs, but he’ll have a big year regardless. Matt Moore will be nipping at his heels – and maybe even Yu Darvish.

NL MVPJoey Votto – The kid is going to put together one heck of a year to take his second MVP title. Don’t count out Rockies’ SS Troy Tulowitzki, Dodgers’ Matt Kemp or Washington’s Michael Morse (YEP – I said it!)

NL Cy YoungMatt Cain – Huge contract, huge year. If it’s not Cain it’s Lincecum. Expect dominate years from Halladay, Lee, Clayton Kershaw and Yovani Gallardo.

NL Rookie of the Year Brandon Belt – Originally, I had Alonso here like McGilligan, but I changed my pick once I found out Belt was making the team (see article on Belt from yesterday).

A healthy Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau? Strader says watch out wild card favourites Texas, Tampa Bay and Boston - there is a surprise coming.

American League Division and Wildcard Winners

AL East – New York Yankees

AL West – LA Angels

AL Central – Detroit Tigers

AL Wildcards – Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins.

RATIONALE – Ok, ok, the Minnesota Twins. I know. But here it is. The pitching staff is not impressive, but it’s solid. The lineup is not impressive, but it’s solid. And there is a team every year that surprises all the prognosticators, so I’m sorry, I’m not going, Angels, Tigers, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays like every other lazy ass out there.

It’s 162 games. Injuries happen. The Twins, I believe, will DH Morneau more than he even needs. I think Ryan Doumit, with some consistency and health, actually has a chance to outperform his career numbers, and there is an ability to do a bunch of different things with the offence (Span, Willingham, Mauer, Parmelee). Who better with a bunch of different parts than Gardenhire?

If I have to explain the other four, you’re probably picking the Royals and their young and up and coming lineup right now….

I know the Rangers aren’t there, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a year of injury concerns for a number of their players. And really? Three WS appearances in a row? Come on. They’re not the Bills…

National League Division and Wildcard Winners

NL East – Braves

NL Central – Cincinnati

NL West – LA Dodgers

NL Wildcards – Arizona, Colorado

RATIONALE: The Braves are too complete, and nobody else in the NL East quite matches up to that description. I believe, much like my colleague Livingstone, that Cincinnatti got a raw deal of circumstances last season, they have too much talent on both sides of the ball not to be a turnaround story. And I don’t think one playoff run makes David Freese a comparable replacement to ALBERT PUJOLS!! How did any Pujols bashing even start? I would have paid him double.

The Dodgers, yeah, that’s right, the Dodgers. They did it on the back of Ethier and Kemp before (sprinkled with a little Manny of course), they’re going to surprise and do it again. The question marks are over, those guys are going to be hungry to play ball.

Oh, and Kershaw’s kind of awesome.

World Series

Yankees over Braves in four.

RATIONALE: Sorry, but this feels like one of those years where we all love the season, and the only people who like the playoffs are the pinstripers…

And the trophy goes to…

AL MVP – Jose Bautista – In spring training we saw American media attention for Canada’s only team. During award season, we’re going to see what that media attention can do for your squad.

AL Rookie of the Year – Yu Darvish – Pitchers who win 18-20 games win awards. Plain and simple. (Honourable mention: Lorenzo Cain)

AL Cy Young – Ricky Romero – Maybe I watch the team to much, but look at the progression, the peripheral numbers, and the fact that all this left hander has to do is find his pitches to dominate lefties, and he’s actually one of the most dominant starters in the game.

NL MVP – Troy Tulowitzki. I don’t think we’ve ever seen the ceiling. A little health, a little less Ubaldo, and maybe we get to see it?

NY Rookie of the Year – Drew Pomeranz. He’s earned a spot and will start. I love Alonso’s bat, but pitchers get credit for pitching in Colorado more than hitters seem to get credit for hitting in San Diego. So I’m going Pomeranz.

NL Cy Young – Kershaw. I see a Greg Maddux style award dominance here for a while.

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